Legislation to add common sense to the regulation of pesticides used near waterways is bottled up in a Senate committee, courtesy of its chair, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.
The bill represents a good-faith effort to prevent what some in agriculture call a "train wreck waiting to happen." A new wave of requirements that went into effect on Halloween require an estimated 365,000 pesticide users to obtain expensive permits on top of the permits and licenses they already have.
A federal district court ruling required the permits under the federal Clean Water Act. This is in addition to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act and the Endangered Species Act, which already govern the use of pesticides.
Other than a profit center for the state governments that will collect the new permit fees, no one seems to be able to justify having pesticides under the purview of the federal Clean Water Act on top of the other laws governing them.
These permits are not cheap. In Oregon, for example, an annual permit is $903 and $457 each following year. Fines could balloon to as much a $37,500, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper.
The corrective legislation, sponsored by Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, who is a farmer and former president of the Ohio Farm Bureau, would fix the problem.
The U.S. House last spring passed the bill 292-130 clarifying that the permits are unneeded. Some 57 Democrats sided with 235 Republicans in the vote, so it was not a party-line fight. It was more a case of common sense prevailing over officiousness.
Environmental groups argue the new regulations will clamp down on water pollution and Gibbs' legislation "will open the flood gates of pesticide pollution," the Plain Dealer reported.
It is a fantasy to argue that mosquito control districts and other pesticide applicators need more regulation. In fact, the industry may already be the most-regulated in the nation.
Pesticide labeling is closely scrutinized, and applicators must be trained and licensed. And when a problem arises, applicators and manufacturers are in regulators' crosshairs. Witness a case earlier this year when an Oregon aerial applicator was fined $90,000 for damaging wheat fields with herbicide.
Even an environmentalist would have to admit that was harsh.
The legislation bottled up in the Senate would delete a needless additional layer of pesticide regulation. It had already been approved in the Senate Committee of Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. That's when Boxer, chair of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee, and Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., chairman of its subcommittee on water and wildlife, stopped the bill from going to the Senate floor.
Here's the bottom line: America's streams and rivers are not better protected by forcing farmers and other pesticide users to pony up for another permit. This was clear to a majority of the House and to the Senate Ag Committee.
Hopefully, this will eventually become clear to Boxer and her friends.